Back to article index


But it is of course an outcome that would require the consent of both peoples - and we're about as far from that as it would be possible to imagine. When I visit Youtube I watch channels like the Grayzone or Ali Abunimah's own Electronic Intifada which claim to be able to debunk many of the Israeli stories of atrocity that occurred on October 7th. But the Israeli public receives a constant stream of such atrocity stories and in their eyes the debunking of Grayzone or Electronic Intifada amounts to 'holocaust denial.'  According to opinion polls 90% of Israeli Jews approve of the assault on Gaza, 60% think it isn't going hard enough. Only 1.5% disapprove. Prominent Israeli commentator Caroline Glick complains that Biden, calling for a 'humanitarian pause' and for 'observing the laws of war' with regard to civilians, is actually wanting Israel to lose. There is an assumption on the other hand that Palestinians on the West Bank, given the opportunity, would vote overwhelmingly for Hamas. On both sides this has become a very black and white affair of good versus absolute evil with a pretty complete solidarity on each side. 

But, we should remember, it was not always thus. I still remember back in 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon to get rid of the PLO, and then oversaw the Christian massacre of Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila, there were huge protest demonstrations organised by Israeli Jews and it seemed at the time as though Ariel Sharon's career was finished. Then again, although I have given a sceptical interpretation of the motives of the Jewish leadership in agreeing to a 'two state solution', Oslo was welcomed with delight by a large part of Jewish Israeli opinion who, I'm quite sure, really believed that the Palestinians were about to be given a genuine state of their own. Smotrich claims, probably rightly, that Uri Avnery (who continued to produce very readable weekly accounts of Israeli politics until his death in 2018) was the first to start pushing for the two state solution (he clung to it to the end but clearly saw it slipping through his fingers). Avnerys 'Gush Shalom' movement, arguing for good relations between the two peoples, was, back in those days, a force to be reckoned with.

The great change in public opinion occurred, I believe, with Hamas's use of the suicide bomb during the second Intifada. One can see the attraction. The discrepancy between Palestinians killed and Israelis killed dropped briefly from about 10:1 to 3:1. But it is a terrifying weapon. What does an Israeli mother do, however 'liberal' her opinions, if she's standing at a bus stop with her children and the queue is joined by a young Arab with a rucksack? At that point the large Jewish Israeli public were willing to do anything to protect themselves from the danger, hence there were no mass Jewish protests against the monstrosity of the separation wall.

Be that as it may, my point remains that things have changed. They've changed for the worse maybe they can change for the better. At some point (though we've been waiting for this for a long time) it may dawn on the Israelis that they are paying a heavy price for their exclusively Jewish state - that Israel, created as a safe haven for Jews after what they had suffered In Europe, is now the most dangerous place in the world for Jews to live. According to an article in the online Middle East commentary The Cradle, in the wake of October 7th and of the actions of Hezbollah on the Northern border: 'One in three businesses have shuttered or are operating at 20% capacity, data from the Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics revealed'. According to the Times of Israel, some 470,000 Israelis have left the country - maybe temporarily but maybe not - and there has been a decline of around 70% in the numbers coming in. Apparently there are already around 1.2 million Israeli citizens living outside the country, though still counted in the official population statistics. Despite all efforts to escape it, the demographic problem remains as solidly intact as it was in 1948.

As things stand Israeli Jews will never be at peace - the type of brutal, morally debilitating brutality they have been engaged in since 1948 but progressively getting worse will have to continue and continue and continue. I may be as shocked as anyone about the current action in Gaza but I can see the 'necessity'  for it. It is a necessity built into the very existence of an exclusively Jewish state. The two state solution gives neither side what it wants - free access the whole territory. It only prolongs the war. The single 'state for all its citizens', to use the slogan of the Arab-Israeli political party, Balad, gives both sides what they want - free access to the whole territory. It is the only imaginable outcome that could bring permanent peace. From the river to sea, Palestine and Israel together could be free.